Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA:  Farmers under an integrated agri extension platform (IAEP) for chilli farm value chain development in public private partnership mode, have witnessed a 27 per cent increase in net returns, 12 per cent in crop production and eight per cent in high-grade production.The platform, put in place by the state department of horticulture, aims to produce high-quality chilli in view of the increasingly stricter norms being imposed by countries that import chilli from India. “The IAEP, an initiative in partnership with ITC, not only ensures improved quality, but also increased productivity,” said horticulture commissioner Chiranjeevi Chowdary, noting that Andhra Pradesh is the largest producer of chilli in India and more than three lakh farmers are dependent on it.

In 2018-19, the department and ITC started high-grade chilli production in 500 acres in Kurnool district as part of a pilot project, and develop an institutional framework with evolving technologies. Later, the production area was scaled to 10,000 acres the next year and 25,000 acres in 2020-21. 

Success of the pilot project saw the department and ITC establishing the platform to further scale up the production, and four districts — Guntur, Kurnool, Prakasam and Krishna — were selected for the project. The objective of the partnership is to focus on disseminating good agricultural practices, reduce the cost of cultivation and better market linkages. The project benefited 4,035 farmers in 2019-20. According to the horticulture commissioner, apart from one-to-one engagements by agriculture extension teams, farmers are encouraged to use technology to identify and communicate problems related to crops to the experts. Besides, training in best practices, both online and offline, are provided to the farmers.

Parameshwara Reddy, a chilli grower from Guntur district, said, “At every stage of cultivation, we were provided guidance both online and offline. We were educated on the type of seeds and the quantity of the pesticides to be used.” 

Karla Anageswara Rao from Penuganchiprolu in Krishna district said his yield increased by 20 per cent after he became a part of the project. “Most importantly, the produce is purchased by buyers through farm gate method, which means we get to sell the crops at our fields without worrying about middlemen.” At present, the IAEP project has 10,064 farmers from 77 villages cultivating chilli in over 25,000 acres.  The concept and success of the project has caught the attention of international organisations such as IDH-Sustainable Trade Initiatives, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and NITI Aayog.

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